Inspiration is Contagious

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by Katherine Gotthardt, M.Ed.

Inspiration is a social disease. It’s amazing how when one person shares inspiration and motivation, others catch it, like a good virus. It’s not really the kind of virus you want to cure, either. In fact, most people would appreciate a sneeze in their general direction if what you are spreading is inspiration and motivation. Here’s why it works.

As we know, people are social creatures, even those who seem to prefer the hermitage. Humans have a fundamental longing to be with others. It’s part of the survival drive. Statistically, we tend to live longer when we live harmoniously with fellow humans. And what happens when we live with others? We tend to influence one another’s behavior and thinking. Now, that can be a bad thing, in the case of groupthink, where you lose your identity and ability to independently analyze. But it can be a good thing if you’re spreading something positive, like creative inspiration and motivation.  

Have you ever been in an audience and listened to a story so compelling that the audience gave a standing ovation? Did it give you chills? Did you cry? That was inspiration speaking.

Have you ever played in a band and intensified your performance because of what you saw and heard your band members doing? That was inspiration acting out.

How about teaching? Ever get that teaching high when speaking passionately about what you love and the class nods in understanding? That was inspiration listening.

What you want to do is get into situations where you catch that inspiration. To do that, you need to watch who you hang out with. Debbie Downer doesn’t do it when it comes to giving you what you’re seeking.

But let’s talk about Debbie, shall we? Maybe what Debbie needs is for someone else to be inspired, someone else to spread that germ and lift her up. Once you have what you need, you might be in a position to do that. But first, make sure you’ve stocked up on your own inspiration. You don’t want Debbie to bring you down.

Here are some ways you can find people to help inspire and motivate you:

  1. Join a book club or start one that only reads inspirational books. Read the books. Discuss them. Let the discussion infuse you with inspiration and motivation to continue. Build off each other’s inspirational high.
  2. Attend a conference where you know motivational speakers will be addressing the crowd. Listen—really listen—to the experiences the speaker shares and see how you might apply their approach to your life. And if they’re good, nod and give them that standing ovation.
  3. Take in short, inspirational and motivational videos or podcasts online, but do it with a friend or two. Avoid trite videos that don’t build on your current understanding of inspiration and motivation. Observe the audience. TED talks, for example, tend to be meatier and provide inspiration from some surprising people, ranging from artists to scientists.
  4. Make lists of groups that inspire you. Or make a storyboard with photos of victorious people and quotes that have the same effect. Pin these to visible places. Look at them and read them every day. Share them with others. When you get bored with them, replace them with something new.
  5. Sit in the park or another public place and people watch. Observe the people who seem like they are most enjoying themselves together. What are they doing? How are they interacting? Make a story in your mind about what motivated them to be there. What do you think inspires them? Can you relate?

Now what do you do with all this inspiration and motivation? You could:

  • Start a new project.
  • Finish an old project.
  • Set new goals.
  • Meet current goals.
  • Share your inspiration and motivation with Debbie Downer.
  • Let yourself fall in love with life.

People are complex. They can be catalysts for the negative or the positive. Surround yourself with inspiration and motivation and see how your own will bloom.

Watching wings

point to the sky,

I wonder how I ever

remained grounded

with swallows nearby.

If I touch their feathers,

will I, too, fly?

Until next time,


This article is part of a series taken from my book, Get Happy, Dammit: Staying Inspired and Motivated in an Often-Unhappy World. Copyright 2020, All Rights Reserved. Learn more at

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